In this Era of the Ascendant Crossover, it’s a big deal when a major manufacturer releases a new sedan.
Domestic brands are especially bearish on sedans. In the past few years, they all have reduced their four-door portfolios, investing instead in crossovers, SUVs and trucks.
This alone makes the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Arteon ($35,845) a vehicle of note. That it is also a striking piece of transportation adds to the news value. For rather than producing a generic sedan, VW has fashioned what amounts to a four-door hatchback; its sweeping, coupe-like profile culminates in a large hatchback-style liftgate that opens wide to reveal a huge cargo space
And, despite that sloping roofline, the Arteon comfortably houses four adults (though taller specimens may run out of rear-seat headroom).
The Arteon competes in the midsize semi-luxury sedan class against a batch of very good and largely German rivals. As a group, they are known for a high-power blend of engineering, refinement and luxury.
Comfort is the default
Performance is a mixed bag; some prioritize speed and responsiveness, others hone in on the esthetic experience.
The Arteon fits most comfortably into the latter group. Its flowing silhouette and crisply designed cabin exude restraint and elegance.
Those qualities are echoed in a ride-and-handling package that’s longer on comfort than on razor-sharp responses. Arteon’s adaptive dampers react in real-time to driving style and road conditions but its suspension settings are softer and its ride more compliant than those of a traditional VW sedan.
VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available on all trims and standard on the top SEL Premium ($41,760).
With its extra-large cargo capacity and AWD, some buyers will find Arteon a viable crossover substitute. VW has modest aspirations for the Arteon in the states but seems to believe some buyers have grown crossover-weary and are ready to return to the sedan fold.
Less is more
Arteon’s roomy cabin follows a less-is-more esthetic. A single wood-trim panel spans the width of the dash and a user-friendly, center-mounted 8-inch touchscreen manages infotainment functions. Climate and audio controls line up below the touchscreen.
VW's user-friendly Car-Net smartphone app integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The standard eight-speaker audio system is underwhelming. The upgrade option is a 12-speaker Dynaudio system that’s standard on the SEL Premium but not available on SE or SEL ($39,995) trims.
There’s more cabin noise than found in a conventional luxury sedan with an isolated trunk. The engine gets buzzy under hard acceleration, but at speed, cabin noise settles down.
The well-bolstered and low-slung front seats provide abundant support, though some agility is required getting into and out of them. Some occupants will need to duck to clear their noggins of the roof.
Interior storage options are limited to a small cell-phone slot and a shallow center-console bin.
Strong, efficient powerplant
All Arteons are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that, in the interest of efficiency, makes smooth and leisurely shifts.
The Arteon runs the 0-60 sprint in 6 seconds and AWD trims deliver 24 mpg in combined driving.
Steering is well-weighted, responsive and accurate. It’s more communicative than most modern steering systems and a solid on-center groove produces no-nonsense straight-line tracking.
Driven aggressively, the Arteon feels planted and stable. With its drive mode set to Sport, body lean in corners is negligible and the Arteon holds its line with minimal understeer and zero drama.
The Arteon SE is equipped with keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats and automatic wipers. Also making the cut are three-zone climate control, simulated leather seats and heated mirrors, as do LED headlights, automatic wipers, a rearview camera, selectable drive modes and adaptive suspension dampers.
Standard safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and a blind-spot monitor.
With its successful fusion of luxury, comfort and utility, the Arteon injects a fresh spirit into the semi-luxury sedan class.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line 4Motion
Vehicle base price: $35,845
Trim level base price: $43,560
As tested: $44,555
Options: The SEL R-Line 4Motion is a fully equipped trim; our tester came with no options.
EPA rating: 23 combined/20 city/27 highway
Premium gasoline required